News from the National Astronomical Observatories (NAOC) says that in order to promote the development of China's astronomical high technologies, the NAOC is going all out to push ahead seven astronomical projects.
Experts said the construction of them would give full play to the role of astronomy in exploring scientific forefront and developing high technologies, and make important contribution to the demand of national key strategy.
Ai Guoxiang, academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and director of the NAOC, published an article in the Scientific Development Report 2005, which introduces the seven projects.
LAMOST is called a "giant eye" that can simultaneously monitor 4,000 celestial bodies. It will become the telescope that has the highest spectrum acquiring rate in the world. Because its "eyes" are composed of a primary mirror 4 meters in diameter and thousands of fibers with each fiber aimed at a celestial body it can catch thousands of celestial bodies at the same time. One-day observation with it is equal to that by thousands of people in a year. So it greatly saves manpower and time. It is estimated that it will take only two or three years to collect data of celestial bodies in a whole celestial zone. It is like a map depicting the entire bodies in the universe. More than 200 million yuan is invested in the project and the key part of the project is being developed. The telescope would be put in the Xinglong observation base of the NAOC.
SST will be the first spatial telescope that China launches into the space. Observation of celestial bodies from the ground is hampered in many ways. The SST, which is sent to the sun-synchronous circular orbit, rids itself of the interference of the atmosphere and can work in all weather conditions, transmitting data to the earth while taking pictures. All the spatial telescopes currently floating in the space come from the US, Japan and developed countries in Europe. The successful development of SST will bring China into the leading position in international solar space research.
FAST is vividly described by scientists as a "heavenly eye" in a valley. Scientists hope it can receive signals sent out by an "extraterrestrial civilization". Radio telescope is different from optical telescopes in that it obtains and analyzes various information through receiving electric wave signals from outer space. Currently, the radio telescope with the largest diameter is a 305-meters telescope built by the Americans. The FAST the Chinese scientists plant to build at Kasite depression in southern Guizhou will be the world's largest radio telescope, so large that it can fill the whole valley with a reception area of one square kilometer.
According to Ai Guoxiang the other four projects will include an optical telescope installed at Lijiang Gaomei of Yunnan to enhance the capability of observational astrophysics. Second, a 1-meter infrared vacuum solar tower will be built on the northeast bank of Fuxian Lake in Yunnan as one of China's main observational equipments for solar physics. Third, to support the lunar exploration the NAOC will, together with other partners, assume the enacting of scientific objectives, development of payloads, deep space exploration coordination as well as ground application and scientific research system. The fourth project will be to look for a fine site on the Tibet Plateau for the new generation large ground optical, infrared and millimeter-wave telescope.
The NAOC and China's astronomy
The NAOC was founded on April 25, 2001 by bringing together eight observatories in Beijing, Yunnan, Urumqi and Changchun, four astronomical and astrophysical centers co-built with higher educational institutions, with its headquarters based in Beijing. The NAOC selected nine among a hundred astronomical fields as its main objectives, of which the evolution of the universe and stars, solar magnetic movement and the sun-earth spatial environment, artificial satellite precision orbiting and space geodynamics, space astronomy are the four key fields.
(People's Daily March 18, 2005)